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Wednesday, 26 April 2023


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Yep, this is the time of year when I hear, “Isn’t it nice out?” To which I can reply, “Yes, it’s so nice out I may just leave it out.” Or not, which is the usual case, although I can THINK it!

Simply reading this triggered my seasonal allergies and made me realize, once again, how happy I am that I sold my single family home (with all of the outside duties it required) and moved into an apartment in the city!

Mother Nature hates lawns, yet we persist in defying her.

I'm a converted leaf mower. No more raking the lawns. In fall I just mow and mow, easy-peasy. By spring, the earthworms have made meals out of the bits. I save any raking for the sidewalks and driveway, which are bad enough.

Sounds like you could use a dump truck with soil and a couple helping hands with a wheelbarrow and shovels to fill those holes. Save your back. A landscaper would know the best way to do it, but also charge the most.

As I discovered in my years in Vermont, cutting wisteria to the ground only angers it. And makes it tricky. Mine spread a long ways underground and popped up where I couldn’t see it until it was taller and entwined in a bush l liked, therefore involving surgery that would have made a neurosurgeon applaud.

Finally I quit fighting and tried to train it onto an arch. It promptly died.

It’s 2.54 cm to the inch.

1 inch = 2.54 cm
So an inch and a half of rain is just under 4 cm

As a "foreigner" (Canadian) whose childhood was measured in inches, feet, and pounds but in adulthood changed to cm, meters, and kilograms I feel the need to correct your math. An inch and a half is not a cm and a half but in fact is 3.8 cm. 1 inch == 2.54 cm. Apart from that, with all the growth you have, your yard certainly looks quite nice. I enjoy very much your Open Mike notes and also your comments and informed opinions about photography.

This will be the second year we do "no mow May" for the benefit of the local bees.
Last year we got to about May 15 before things got so far out of control that we had to unleash the family Cub Cadet.
I don't mind dandelions at all and that's a good thing as they are already popping up all over.
We can get away with this as our nearest neighbor is a half mile away and the president of our homeowners association is a possum.

We don't live where you do, Mike, but we do have rural property with a lot of lawn in rainy western Oregon, a sometimes-balky John Deere riding mower (*not* as powerful as a Volkswagen of any kind), and plenty of wet patches and low-hanging branches.

Unfortunately no Mennonite neighbors with draft horses live nearby, so I've occasionally rescued the mower from swampy oblivion with an all-wheel-drive Subaru and enough rope to reach from the gravel driveway 100 feet or so down to the muddy spot. It's 25 miles to the only mechanic I trust to work on the Deere, so of necessity I've learned over the years how to fix many of the mower's regular problems, without making too many of them worse.

There is nothing, though, quite like the first mowing of spring. Nice piece of writing!

My son's advice: plant trees. He's anti-lawn, and I can't say I disagree with him.

Hey Mike. Not sure if you were being a bit sarcastic here and there, but as a scientist I feel I have a duty to point out that there are 2.54 cm in an inch, so 1.5 inches is 3.81 cm.

Also, a 90 hp tractor is used for farming. If you're partial to John Deere green you're talking about $100,000 MSRP. A typical riding lawnmower is in the 15-20 hp range. Maybe 25 hp if you're rich and fancy.

I totally agree with your description of the travails of maintaining a yard. Last year I didn't have to mow until the end of May, which is both better for my lazy soul (I use a push mower) and the birds and bees. Our grass was barely turning green last week, but after 3 inches of rain on Sunday and strong sun to start the week I have a jungle on my hands.

An inch and a half of rain is actually almost four cm (3.8 cm to be more precise), so measuring in centimetres makes it sound much wetter than using inches. And if you want to sound as if things must be floating in your back yard, use millimetres, which we in Canada usually use to measure rain. Thirty eight sounds much more impressive than a mere one and a half!

How many acres do you mow? My yard has about a half acre in grass, and when I bought it, friends said I'd surely be buying a riding mower soon. Twenty-three years later, That still hasn't happened. I'm mowing on my own two feet, but I'm not pushing a heavy mower uphill. First I had a self-propelled Honda, which worked beautiful but was hard to handle due to its great weight. Gradually I swore off small gas appliances, as they broke down one by one. My self-propelled mower is electric now. It was sold with two batteries that, back to back, can outlast me.

Your mileage will be different, of course. Anything over two acres in a faster-growing climate would probably be too much. But I do enjoy a long walk over my own land, which is big for a yard but small for a park. You've been on a health kick, so my plan could trim your scheduled workout time.

Just curious: living out in the country, you don't have a pesky HOA, so why do you bother with a grass lawn instead of an environmentally friendly and low-maintenance yard of wildflowers, clover, etc.?

Nice report!
But check your inches. Over here an inch is about 2.5 cm.
I grew up working on the family owned sawmill. We used inches for pieces that were cut to size. 2x4 etc. When planed(?) it becomes 45x95
Inches and feet are good "human" scaled measurements but are awful to calculate.

Same stuff here, Mike. I cut it, run out of time to finish it off with the hand mower, it rains, and three days later, repeat.

My neighbor has a perspective on snow, that after you're done plowing/blowing/shoveling, all you have is what you started with. For some reason, he doesn't think the same way about grass. He actually FERTILIZES the stuff!

Personally, I don't like lawns. They're another Veblen thing. In my rural setting, where the prior owner had tried to make a suburban lawn everywhere, I've undertaken a "wilding" for the last 20+ years, using the land to provide food and shelter for insects, birds and animals, which a typical lawn of Asian grasses does not do.

BTW #1, Forsythia are an Asian introduction, and do absolutely nothing for native critters. Not even deer eat the stuff.

BTW #2, Going at a slower speed with your lawn tractor would be easier on your back. Personal experience, both with back issues, and avoiding the pounding of a lawn tractor driven fast.

BTW #3, In the Fall, just drive your mower over the leaves, which will mulch the lawn, and as the bits decay, provide sustenance for all critters big 'n little.

Here in Canada we have "No Mow May" to help the environment, takes away all the garden guilt but I did self service the John Deere (only 22hp not your 90hp job.

Hi Mike, an inch is 2.54 cm. Cheers! Jaap

An inch and à half would be approximately 4cm but what do I know, here in Barcelona rain has turned into a myth, something that only exists in science fiction books.
And yes to forsythia! One of the prides of my garden as well...

An inch and a half can't possibly be a centimeter and a half, it fails sanity check (you do sanity check numbers that run through your brain, right?). The conversion factor is NOT 1.0! (An inch is 2.54 centimeters).


You got the inch to centimeter conversion wrong. There are 2.54 cm/in., so 1.5 inches is a little over 3.8 cm.

A one word solution. Plastics?

No. Sheep.

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twenty minutes is long enough for about an inch and a half of rain to fall (that's a cm and half to you foreigners, I b'lieve)


A statement like the above is like a red rag to a bull to a Metric Fundamentalist like me.

But I forgive you.

Look after your back. ( I'm a Fundamentalist Back Pain Sufferer as well ).

“A lawn is nature under totalitarian rule.”

- Michael Pollan

It's true, forsythia is one of the glories of a Northeastern spring; a reminder that the gray skies and mud will pass. And if the deer won't eat them, so much the better.
Here in Tucson, the paloverde trees are now flowering with a similar brilliant yellow. And the 'lawns" here are sensibly made of gravel, which neither grows nor requires mowing. Yet the weeds grow well in such inhospitable terrain...

Your very nice post today reminded me that I have two yards ( house and office ) to mow with my very old JD, at least once the last foot of snow melts and I can see our Alaskan dirt again for several months. (That's just about 31.5 CM of the white stuff. )

OTOH, our wild iris, tulips, and daffodils are pushing up through the snow, so the time seems near.


I second a couple of the comments above. We built a house on a river bluff in an area where water runoff from lawns and parking lots overwhelms the areas water dispersion capabilities.
From the start, our goal was to have no water leave our property. We did so with having no lawn, instead laid out the property with deep-rooted prairie plants, trees, rain gardens, etc.
We lived there for 20 years without a lawn mower. We had a patch of grass about 15-feet by 20 feet which I trimmed with a battery powered weed whacker occasionally. A neighbor, built and moved in next door after us, filed a complaint with the city against us because of tall prairie grass. City said we had to mow everything. We contacted city environmental engineers and they supported us, saying we were doing what they wished all homeowners in the are would do. We didn't have to cut. Get rid of your turf lawn but do it incrementally so its not overwhelming. Get rid of the mower.

My Dad used to start the lawn mower up every week during the winter for a few minutes and then the same with the snowblower in the summer. Looks strange but we never had a problem with either of them.

Perhaps instead of a lawn mower, you could get an Austrian scythe? Works no matter the weather or water saturation level. And you get a great workout for free!


You get a sign that says "Prairie Grass Do Not Mow" and put a stop to the mowing.

Your neighbors may cause a lien to be placed on your house, and for that to be foreclosed upon. In which case, also, you will not have to mow.

Hi Mike,
Maybe consider an alternative to lawn. Could be the topic for another day.
Interesting read here on the origins of lawns in the US, including a book to read, if so inclined.

Hi Mike, I think the actual power of the John Deere is 17HP - not 90 and certainly not 180.

And as tractors go, they don't show mileage, but hours of operation. The reason is that, depending on the task at hand, tractors can be in operation while stationary for days on end (e.g. when powering an irrigation system), or moving on a very slow pace. Your lawn mower has been in operation for 464.5 hours.

Britain is finally getting the message that we'd all be better off without mile after mile of green concrete. Idleness is best for wilderness!

A fine and scientifically accurate article.

I had a good look at the photo of the dashboard, and unless you average 10 mph when mowing, your John Deere has not done 4,645 miles but 465.5 hours; there's a little hourglass symbol next to the readout.

My own lawn is pretty small at maybe 400 square feet, but I have used a small tractor with a gang mower to trim a field. Most therapeutic.

Amusing article, when you flow, you flow. A joint article between you and Martina Hyde would be a joy. I've heard of these tractor mower things. Fortunately, my front garden is two flower beds, a short cobble path for the postman and a pebble drive way.My back garden is a 55 feet long by 25 feet wide rectangle and the grass grows in the 1cm of soil over the rubble of the previous Victorian mansion that was replaced by 9 terraced houses. I don't need a ride on mower, a pair of nail clippers is sufficient to get the job done in about 3 minutes and 4 seconds annually.

Those aren't lawns, they're fields!

I have a typical UK garden (for the time of the house - 1930s), about 100ft x 35 ft. Of that, maybe 50 x 25ft is grassed. That's around 2.5% of an acre. And as I say, that's typical for my sort of house, 1930s semi-detached. Terraced houses (older or younger) will typically have smaller gardens, as will more modern semis - much smaller in many cases.

I don't know anyone with a motorised mower. I use an electric mower which I plug in to a socket in my lounge and then run an extension lead. There's a sliding door from the lounge to a patio, across which lies the lawn.

The problem that I and many garden-owning householders face in my city is: what to do with the cuttings, etc? Let me introduce you to the Tyranny of the Green Bin. I pay my city council for an extra collection service - garden refuse. The city council supply a green wheely bin and come round and empty it once a fortnight, on a given day. This means that I have to fill the green bin in time for that day. Too soon and the vegetable matter will start to rot and smell; too late and I'll miss the collection. So, rain or shine, cold or heatwave, sickness or health, in the few days before Green Bin Day I'm out there mowing the lawn, trimming the hedge, clipping the path edges, and maybe - maybe - doing some weeding. All to get the ****** Green Bin filled by the due date. I feel oppressed....

That's the first time I've seen anyone convert an (obsolete) currency to a unit of length.

There's an old Freakonomics podcast episode about lawns that everyone should listen to: https://freakonomics.com/podcast/how-stupid-is-our-obsession-with-lawns/.

Here in Germany there are all kinds of actions to save the bees, and not mowing your lawn until June is one of the recommendations.
Some only partly mow their lawn, leaving patches with long grass and flowers. The resulting works of "art" can be quite interesting.

Sorry Mike, the HP of your mower is 17 hp as indicated in your photo and the numbers on the screen are hours not miles as indicated by the hour glass symbol beside it.

Use fresh fuel. Ethanol laced fuel draws moisture and goes bad after a couple months. Overwintering equipment without draining the fuel is a pretty good way to gum up a carburetor.

dm is decimeter or 1 tenth of a meter or 10 centimeters.
1 dm = 3.9 inches
But I assume you were joking. Great post. Reminded me of spring.

At 10 years old my daughter cut our lawn on the Cub Cadet riding mower. She had to sit on a weight to defeat the seat switch. She cut the lawn for me until she left for college. I am so thankful for those years.

"So the lawnmower engine is NOT 90 horsepower, as I stated...it is 180 horsepower, as you can see for yourself. " What I see is the model number has 180 in it and on the left it clearly says that it is 17 horse power.

Hey Mike you wanna race your riding mower?
For pink slips? (HA)
I'v got an old Craftsman riding mower, 18HP and a 42 inch circle of cutting power.
But your mower is pretty, mine is an old dull gray color. Lots of grass/weeds under its blades over the years.
stay well

I suggest you sell the Deere and get yourself a self-propelled model that you walk behind. Mowing the lawn will then be an activity, a bit of a workout to complement your gym sessions; it's outdoors in the fresh air and it's also good for your mind.

I know you'll say "but it takes too long!" and yes, it takes longer than that lazy-boy armchair thing, but it will help lengthen your healthspan, not shorten it. You sit down too much already (as most of us do).

After years of lugging non-propelled Hayters around our huge, lumpy hillside plot my Dad bought a Honda. It never missed a beat - typical Honda - and was brilliant.

“They serenade the weekend squire / Who just came out to mow his lawn”, Gerry Goffin and Carole King, “Pleasant Valley Sunday” (song), 1967

Very late to the party. I have been in a place with poor Internet. I enjoyed this very much. The exaggeration and nonsense appeal to a British sense of humour.

I’m in the uk but I bought a Craftsman petrol mower from an expat American. It was labelled as One-Pull Start. What a pity it wasn’t First Pull Start…

[That's very funny! As kind of a word guy, I love stuff like this.... --Mike]

My hatred of yardwork is beyond measure (in inches or cm), and after living in an apartment for a decade, I fully intend to die (in a few more decades) without ever again owning a patch of green-tinted wasted effort.

Nuke the lawn! Not good for the environment. Sell the mower as scrap so nobody else can use it. Plant a forest instead. I did and happy with it. So is the wildlife. I prefer wildlife to humans mostly anyway..

OK on the Wisteria. It's like the infamous beanstock? We have a wisteria that I swear will lift our house off it's foundation someday.

As always, enjoy your writing. BTW, I'm interested in the pentax K-3 III beast. I have a few K-3 (classic) bodies and toying with an upgrade. (Most of my photos are B&W where colour is just noise.. LoL)

Hmzzz, I once saw (ont a phototrip) a rabbit sitting on its hindlegs following a Husqvarna lawnmower of the "I do the mowing while you snork variety". Ears pricked up and all. Clearly it was thinking else these pesky bipeds would come up next, and wether or not this grass mulching competition was a thread or not

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